A new season of opera is upon us, with Opera San Jose presenting the Verdi classic "Rigoletto" and San Francisco's company staging Bellini's "Norma," known for its famous soprano aria. The prospect of attending one of those would fill some of our readers with joy, others with dread.
For our latest Love/Hate smackdown, staff members Richard Scheinin and Martha Ross present two sides in the long-standing debate over opera. Where do you stand? Send your responses, name and city to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday.
Why do I love opera? Because it's a spectacle. Because it's the original multimedia event. Because it's filled with amazing melody. Because it makes you cry. Because the sound of the human voice is a miracle. Opera is about singing -- beautiful singing -- and about emotion, relationships, the human condition. The story lines can be silly, over the top, but that's part of what makes it fun, its very over-the-top-ness. There's so much melody, so much passion, so many wheels turning, so many eye-popping sets and effects to soak up, especially in this digital age. Even the snobbiness of the opera subculture -- the bravoing and booing aficionados who argue over this spinto soprano and that heldentenor -- are a trip.
-- Richard Scheinin
I want to love opera, I really do. After all, it holds a certain place in Western culture as the grandest of all art forms. More than that, I'm a fan of classical music, and some of opera's well-known arias, duets and trios truly take my breath away. But listening to short selections is as far as I'll go. To actually sit through a full-length, live performance sounds tedious, especially given how a night at the opera is a major financial investment. I've given it a try, including San Francisco Opera's "La Boheme." World-class singing notwithstanding, it was hard to suppress eye-rolls during the overripe acting. And there is only so much "cultural context" I can apply to some of the old-fashioned story lines, especially when they feature centuries-old ethnic stereotypes -- I'm looking at you, "Madame Butterfly." So, right now, I'll just cue up that sublime trio from "Cosi fan tutte" on my iPhone and leave it at that.
-- Martha Ross
READERS, YOUR TURN
So how about you? Do you love or loathe opera? Send your responses, along with your name, city and suggestions for other smackdowns to email@example.com by Wednesday. Please put "love/hate" in the subject line.